Hardly had anyone expected the mighty Tribhuvan Army Club one day will be reduced to mute spectators. At least not so soon. But on Tuesday, they were helpless, clueless and crestfallen.
Undone by the most fearsome hitting ever seen in the pitch during domestic cricket, Armymen lost to their departmental rivals Nepal APF Club by 47 runs while crashing out of the Prime Minister Cup, that too in a brutal fashion.
Army carry a decent fast bowling attack. Bikram Sob enjoyed a morale boosting debut with the national team during September’s ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 in Oman and Jitendra Mukhiya was in the final stage of his own reincarnation following a long hiatus from stardom.
Both the seamers had come into Tuesday’s semi-final with a collective economic rate of just over five and half runs an over.
Bikram was at his best when he took 6-8 against Sudur Paschim and Jitendra, in form since the Everest Premier League, had taken 4-17. Left arm spinners Sushan Bhari and Shahab Alam both usually have the penchant of keeping the opponents’ run rate on check where ever they play inside the country.
Coupling with that bowling attack, the Army also carry a lengthy batting line up where even No 9 Shahab can smash if it is his day. Bhim Sharki, Hari Chauhan, Kushal Malla, skipper Binod Bhandari and Rajesh Pulami are the ones expected to at least stick to the crease or fire.
But Tuesday was not about Army, their lethal fast bowling duo, miserly spinners or their batting depth.
They were, in fact, schooled by two youngsters who demonstrated how batting on a flat surface in a Twenty20 game should look like.
Aasif Sheikh was the first to give the lesson as he began with a record 150-run opening wicket partnership with Pradeep Airee, the other consistent man in the tournament who is seeking his own revival.
Aasif’s belligerent 43-ball 84 included 10 fours and five sixes all of them demonstrating his batting brilliance. Neither any awkward shuffle in the crease nor any unorthodox selection of shots; the now-settled member of the national team was displaying sheer class.
The only blemish was when he was dismissed. After smashing Sumit Shrestha outside the stadium over long on, Aasif committed too early to a short slow ball holing out a catch at deep square leg.
Army did heave a sigh of relief when they got rid of Aasif and captain Sharad Vesawkar in a space of 12 runs but never knew a young boy struggling to fit into their side just a year ago would come back and rip them into pieces.
Proving himself economical conceding 20 runs until the dismissal of Sharad in the third ball of his third over, Army were pinning hopes on their old war horse. And there expectations took no time to fizzle out.
Lokesh smashed Jitendra’s remaining three balls for consecutive sixes, all of them travelling a long way. He raced to a 13-ball 48 after striking Jitendra for another three consecutive sixes in the 19th over and completed a 14-ball century with a four off Bhari in the 20th.
Lokesh now holds the fastest half century in domestic Twenty20 tournament. Out of the 16 sixes, Lokesh hit nine and all of them were proper cricket shots that came courtesy his perfect timing and brute power.
Jitendra ultimately bled 57 runs in his four overs and when APF innings were over Army were smashed for 230 runs, the highest they have ever conceded.
The Armymen did manage to make 183 in reply, the third best team total in the tournament, but no one cared.
The few hundred crowd at the TU grounds already had their entertainment.
Such was Lokesh and Aasif’s dominance that even Pradeep’s 53-ball 57 in that 150-run opening stand will hardly be remembered in coming future.
Nepal APF Club: 230-2 in 20 overs
A Sheikh 84 off 43 (10 fours, five sixes), L Bam 66 off 18 (9 sixes, 2 fours), P Airee 57 off 53 (7 fours, 1 six); J Mukhiya 1-57, S Shrestha 1-19
Tribhuvan Army Club: 183-9 in 20 overs
R Pulami 38 off 21 (4 sixes, 1 four), B Sharki 35 off 19 (5 fours, 1 six); S Vesawkar 3-16, A Bohora 2-43, B Karki 2-48